On Thursday, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the longtime federal corporation that handles electricity in seven states, voted to shut down the Paradise coal-fired power plant in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.
The decision is a humiliation for President Donald Trump, who took a personal interest in the vote and put pressure on TVA to save the plant:
Donald J. Trump
Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and @TVAnews should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!
5:03 PM – Feb 11, 2019
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Trump, who has made saving coal a key plank of his presidency, may have also been interested in the Paradise plant because it buys from a mining company owned by one of his friends and political donors, Robert Murray. But he wasn’t alone. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, and Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, all urged TVA not to close the plant as well.
The Paradise plant was the largest coal-fired power plant of its kind when it was completed in 1970, but it has gradually had its burners shut down and replaced with natural gas as it has experienced breakdowns and become less economical — it is currently generating power only 10 percent of the time. Another plant in Bull Run will also be shut down. It is estimated the closure of both will save TVA $1 billion.
It is worth noting that the closure of these two plants will only reduce the total proportion of energy that TVA generates from coal by 1 percent. Furthermore, the closure will eliminate 131 jobs, and there should be a plan in place for helping those workers.
But it is clear that Trump does not have the pull to reverse the clock on energy trends. Aside from being terrible for the environment, coal is gradually getting less economical, and what is left of the industry is increasingly automated, employing fewer workers. The president will not be able to tweet away that reality.
IMAGE: Delegates from West Virginia hold signs supporting coal on the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo